Intimacy and Jealousy Regulate Relationships

Uploaded 10/30/2018, approx. 6 minute read

By popular demand, my name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

And don't you make me repeat this.

Today we are going to discuss regulatory loops.

Every relationship has mechanisms for feedback. The partners in the relationship use these mechanisms to communicate with each other and to modify the other partner's behavior to regulate the relationship.

There are two ways to do that, via intimacy or via romantic jealousy. Mature partners achieve a workable balance between togetherness and personal autonomy. It is not easy.

Taken to the extreme, personal autonomy becomes a freedom and then anarchy. Taken to the extreme, togetherness becomes clinging, suffocating and stifling.

Finding the golden mean between these two is a task of herculean proportions. It requires awareness of subtleties and nuances. It requires fine tuning on a minute by minute basis, interaction by interaction, speech act by speech act. It's a full-time job.

But these mature healthy partners engender intimacy via communication and also via actions. They signal to each other. Intimacy feels so good, so warm, involves acceptance and creates such a safe and secure environment in which the partners can be vulnerable, naked, so to speak. So it feels so good.

It feels like going back to childhood that no one in his right mind wants to exit such a bond, an intimate, a truly intimate bond.

So both abandonment or separation anxiety and romantic jealousy are absent in healthy relationships because intimacy guarantees that there's no need for them.

Object permanence or object constancy is accomplished and established in healthy and mature relationships. The partners trust each other to always be there. Separation is not a threat. And abandonment is not on the cards because who would abandon, again, a truly intimate functional relationship? Why would you do that?

So such a relationship is devoid of anxiety and devoid of jealousy.

But what to do? What happens when one of the partners is a codependent or a borderline and the other one is a narcissist or a psychopath or a histrionic? These are very common combinations, actually.

And what happens when both of the partners suffer from mood disorders such as, for example, bipolar disorder?

Well, these kind of partners cannot achieveand if they do achieve, cannot maintain even minimal intimacy.

Instead, what they do, they mesh, intermesh, get entangled, fuse, merge. They become a single organism with two heads.

Normally, such fusion fosters intolerable abandonment or separation anxiety. It's very simple. If you're part of one organism, any separation is the equivalent of amputation. It's intolerably painful. It could even be life threatening with profuse, emotional bleeding taking place.

So all separation, even minimal, is perceived as an existential threat.

The only way to regulate this kind of profound anxiety is to make sure that the partner doesn't jump ship, doesn't abandon you.

But how do you achieve that if you cannot generate intimacy? What incentive or inducement does the partner have to stay in their relationship?

If he's a narcissist, you can give him narcissistic supply. But even that has a limit. At some point, he may devalue you, or he may find a much better source of supply.

So it's not a guarantee as far as the longevity of a relationship.

So how do you kind of make sure that your spouse or intimate partner remains heavily involved, emotionally invested, infectious, and will never leave you?

This is done by provoking the partner's romantic jealousy.

Jealousy, of course, is a reaction to anticipated loss. So the partner that provokes jealousy, engages in indiscreet extramarital affairs, adultery, and cheating. She displays flagrant promiscuity. She is ostentatiously flirtatious or seductive with strangers. Her behaviors are provocative, as is her dress, her attire, or her speech. And she all the time destabilizes the relationship by hinting at the existence of third parties by generating a doom and gloom atmosphere of an impending breakup. And she does that in order to provoke the partner into sitting up and paying attention. She wants the partner to value her. She wants the partner to realize that she's desirable, that she's irresistible to other men, or that he's irresistible and desirable to other women.

Such a partner introduces insecurity and instability as means to create security and stability.

It's very paradoxical. The instigator wants her counterpart, actually, to set boundaries.

She wants, or he wants, his or her spouse to put his foot down, to prove that he cares, to say up to here, stop it. I don't accept your behavior anymore.

She wants the partner to wake up, to become alive, to become invested in the relationship, to pay attention, as I said. Of course, such behaviors, provoking romantic jealousy, triangulation, such behavior precipitate exactly what they had been meant to prevent. They have the exact opposite effect to the one intended.

Many partners anticipating loss and with pain aversion, many. These combine to drive the injured party away, actually guarantee eventual separation and abandonment.

If you play this game of romantic jealousy too often, if you triangulate too often, if you introduce the parties into the relationship too often, by cheating, for example, if you are flagrantly promiscuous, ostentatiously flirtatious, or seductive in public, if you misbehave, if you dress provocatively, if you upload photos of yourself half naked or online, and if you constantly hint that you're about, just about, a second before breaking up and walking away. At some point, you're taking the risk that your partner may say, well, good riddance. I can't take this anymore.

So, exactly like with intimacy, it's an act of fine tuning. You have to find the balance between provoking enough insecurity and not too much of it.

Again, exactly like intimacy. You have to find the balance between creating enough intimacy and not too much of it.

Exaggerated regulatory behaviors, intimacy creating or jealousy creating, tend to kill the relationship, to terminate it, because no one in his right mind wants to live in an exaggerated, caricaturistic environment.

People seek the middle ground. People want to feel sufficiently themselves and sufficiently merged with the other. They want to create a third entity within which both partners are separate but united.

Not easy.

And that's why well over 50% of marriages end in divorces and well over 80% of relationships end in separation.

Finding this balance, this middle ground, this golden mean, eludes most of us and it eludes most of us because of our inherent narcissism, including healthy narcissism. We don't know exactly how to keep our partner happy and ourselves at the same time. We keep failing.

The situation is so bad that many people give up all together and that's the service statement about the modern condition that anyone could make.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

Borderline to Narcissist: I Will Abandon You First

Narcissists and borderlines have archaic wounds, and they cater to each other's pathologies by activating or provoking these archaic wounds and then solving them. The borderline's focus on her intimate partner constitutes narcissistic supply, and the borderline's concentration, intensity, dedication, addiction, really, to her partner are irresistible to the narcissist. The dynamic unfolds in several stages, and the borderline goes through a phase where she becomes convinced that she had found the prince of her dreams, the knight in shining armor, the men. The borderline is obsessed with the issue of abandonment, and she has separation anxiety or abandonment anxiety.

3 Phases of Borderline’s Rollercoaster

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the regulatory cycle of the borderline personality disorder. The borderline seeks an intimate partner to provide her with a sense of inner peace, stability, and safety. The intimate partner becomes an extension of the borderline's inner turmoil, and the borderline creates a shared fantasy with the partner. The cycle has three phases: shared fantasy, disillusionment, and transactional regulatory valley. The cycle is inevitable and ineluctable, and the borderline will try to recreate a shared fantasy with the partner or an ex-partner or become sexually self-trashing.

No Intimacy Without Personal Boundaries (Q&A)

Intimacy skills are inextricably linked to the capacity to maintain and enforce personal boundaries. People with personality disorders don't have personal boundaries, which makes it impossible for them to do intimacy. Intimacy is a balancing act between separateness and togetherness, sharing commonalities and having a private life separate from the partner. The younger generations have tremendous deficiencies in relationship and intimacy skills because they don't have the chance to experience even intimacy in relationships.

Borderline Bible: Switching to Identity Disturbance, Psychopathic Self-state (Compilation)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the perspective of a person with borderline personality disorder (BPD) towards their intimate partner. He describes two phases in the relationship: the approach phase and the avoidance phase. In the approach phase, the person with BPD sees their partner as their world, savior, and stabilizer of moods. They feel completed and whole with their partner. In the avoidance phase, the person with BPD feels overwhelmed by pain, anticipates abandonment, and may engage in acting out behaviors like cheating or other reckless actions. They may experience dissociation and view their partner as wanting to control or harm them. The cycle of approach and avoidance is compulsive and not mitigated by external factors. Vaknin emphasizes the intense and chaotic nature of relationships with individuals with BPD.

The Mentally Ill Form Couples

Mentally ill individuals often form couples or dyads, which can lead to fused relationships and trauma bonding. Coping strategies include active denial, enabling, and avoidance. Avoidance can lead to extreme estrangement and cruel disengagement, causing the mentally ill partner to act out in provocative or reckless ways. In extreme cases, the significant other can become a superego replacement, leading to major depressive attitudes, psychotic disorders, and even suicide.

Why NPD and BPD are Perfect Match?

Narcissism and borderline personality disorder are a perfect match, despite the fact that the narcissist tends to devalue and discard their partner while the borderline has abandonment anxiety. The borderline needs a partner who will idealize them and reduce their abandonment anxiety, but then discard them when they feel suffocated. The only intimate partner who provides both functions reliably is the narcissist.

Narcissist Father: Save Your Child

Parents who are worried about their children becoming narcissists under the influence of a narcissistic parent should stop trying to insulate their children from the other parent's influence. Instead, they should make themselves available to their children and present themselves as a non-narcissistic role model. Narcissistic parents regard their children as a source of narcissistic supply and try to control their lives through guilt-driven, dependence-driven, goal-driven, and explicit mechanisms. The child is the ultimate secondary source of narcissistic supply, and the narcissistic parent tries to perpetuate the child's dependence using control mechanisms. The narcissistic parent tends to produce another narcissist in some of their children, but this outcome can be effectively countered by loving, empathic, predictable, just, and positive upbringing, which encourages a

Separating-Individuating From Borderline Partner

Separating and individuating from a borderline partner is different from doing so from a narcissistic partner. The borderline partner outsources their mind to their intimate partner and expects them to regulate their emotions, moods, and stabilize them. The borderline partner regards their intimate partner as both a godlike figure and an abuser, leading to ambivalence and hate-love feelings. To separate from a borderline partner, one needs to silence their voice in their mind, reclaim their authentic voice, and help the borderline partner discover their authentic self. The process involves owning up to one's contributions to the relationship, refusing to collaborate in the borderline's shared fantasy, and helping the borderline partner to love themselves, become agentic, and choose life.

13 Signs Of Mentally Ill Family

The text discusses 13 signs of mentally ill families, including enmeshment, emphasis on appearances, selective interface between internal and external realities, enforced narrative, competitive hierarchies, emphasis on the ambient, emotional blackmail, wrongful intimacies, past or future orientation, reinforcement of negative effects, role reversals, egodystonic members, and reification of insecure attachment styles and mental health issues. The author suggests scoring one's own family and advises going no contact if the score is 10 or higher.

Engulfment Anxiety Tips Bad Vs. Good Voices In Borderlines, Codependents, People Pleasers

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is commonly associated with abandonment anxiety, but there is another type of anxiety that is less reported in literature, which is engulfment or enmeshment anxiety. This anxiety is triggered when a Borderline gets too intimate with someone, and it creates a feeling of being controlled from the outside, leading to a fear of being assimilated or digested. This anxiety is caused by the Borderline's bad object, which is a collection of internal voices that inform them of their unworthiness and inadequacy. To cope with this anxiety, Borderlines should establish a people-free time and zone, introduce structure into their lives, and stop being emotionally invested in the past or future.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
Website Copyright © William DeGraaf 2022-2024
Get it on Google Play
Privacy policy